“I’m not dead yet,” is an oft-quoted line from the 1975 film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The musical, Monty Python’s Spamalot, has a whole number based on this line and, likewise, is alive and sporting kicklines, coconuts, and more at the National Theatre, as it closes its final tour in the next few days here in Washington, DC.
Spamalot is based on the film and has a book and lyrics by Monty Python writer Eric Idle. Idle and John Du Prez collaborated on its catchy music, which will leave the audience humming along after the show has ended. A talented, memorable cast, hysterical dialogue, flamboyant costumes by Tim Hatley, and references to the film contribute to this show’s quality. Projection Design by Elaine McCarthy and Scenic Design by Hatley, with modifications by James Kronzer, beautifully blend the musical and the movie.
With direction by Mike Nichols and direction recreated by BT McNicholl, the show follows King Arthur and his servant Patsy, spurred on by the Lady of the Lake, on a quest to gather knights for Camelot. God, voiced by the aforementioned Idle, then directs them to find the Holy Grail. In addition to their Knights of the Round Table, Arthur and Patsy’s journey brings a deadly rabbit, a shrubbery, commune-living peasants and, of course, the required damsel in distress, aka Herbert. Songs such as “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” and “The Song That Goes Like This” parody musical theatre in a hysterical, yet tasteful manner.
Arthur Rowan commands the stage as a noble King Arthur who meets his increasingly bizarre world with a princely grace. Actress Melissa Chaty, normally an ensemble member, went above and beyond in her understudy duties this evening as the lovely Lady of the Lake, substituting for Abigail Raye. Glenn Giron plays an endearingly loyal Patsy as well as Guard 2. Along the way, they are joined by Sir Lancelot (local favorite Adam Grabau, also seen as the French Taunter, the Knight of Ni, and Tim the Enchanter), the not-so-brave Sir Robin (a humorous Kasidy Devlin, who also plays Brother Maynard and Guard 1), and Sir Dennis Galahad (a witty Joshua Taylor Hamilton, also seen as Concorde).
Many cast members play numerous characters throughout the show. All should be commended for their ability to fly through each different role while crafting unique traits for each. The gifted ensemble often fills in the other roles, including Sir Not Appearing (Andrew Leggieri), Monk (Ryan Jacob Wood), Nun (Jason Elliott Brown), French Guards (Brown and Leggieri), Minstrels (Brown, Kimber Benedict and Carl DeForrest Hendin, who also plays Sir Bors). Joe Beuerlein and Thomas DeMarcus play an exhausting list of characters. Beuerlein plays Historian, Not Dead Fred, French Guard, Minstrel, and Prince Herbert. DeMarcus counters him as Prince Herbert’s Father as well as Mayor, Dennis’ Mother, Sir Bedevere, and the Black Knight. Ensemble members include Matthew Alexander, Barbara Jo Bednarczuk, Amy Owens, Alec Varcas, and the above Benedict, Brown, Chaty, Hendin, Leggieri, and Wood.
As mentioned above, Monty Python’s Spamalot is closing its national tour this week at the National Theatre. Still, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” as one of the show’s songs advises, and go see the show now through this Sunday, April 14th!
Running Time: Two hours with one 15-minute intermission.
Note: In keeping with the style of the Monty Python genre, adult humor, and language is used throughout the show.
Maryland’s Adam Grabau on Playing Lancelot and Others in Spamalot at National Theatre by Joel Markowitz.